22 Apr 08
In common with all the teams, WRC newcomers Suzuki take a step into the unknown this weekend with the very first World Championship rally in the Kingdom of Jordan.
However, Suzuki will be hoping to turn this situation in to a positive - as for the first time all year nobody starts at an advantage in terms of experience. And with its driver line-up of Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson Suzuki believes it has the perfect blend of youth and experience - who feel equally at home on any surface.
The team has had a difficult start to its debut WRC season and has suffered a series of technical problems with its new car, the SX4 WRC. Since the last round in Argentina, however, the team has made a number of modifications to the vehicle. The engine control system has been modified to increase reliability, while the underbody cladding and sump guard have been reinforced in order to counteract some of the rougher conditions. In view of the extremely high temperatures forecast the cooling system has been overhauled, while damper adjustments are said to have improved the roadholding.
The team has scored driver or manufacturer points on three out of the four rallies held so far this year and Suzuki will once again be looking for a points-scoring result in the heat and the dust of Jordan. Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson are starting their fifth event in the Suzuki SX4 WRC, but Jordan will be an entirely new experience for them both.
"It's very hard for me to know what to expect," said 33 year-old Gardemeister, a veteran of more than 100 World Championship rallies. "In fact, it's very strange to be setting off to compete somewhere and to have no idea what I will find there: I can't remember the last time I was in that situation! I think Jordan will be quite different from anywhere else though, and that can only be good for us as it makes everything more equal. With no problems, we have had the potential to finish in the top six on every rally so far I think. We have to keep working hard and wait for everything to come together. In time, I'm sure that it will."
The 27 year-old P-G Andersson has a very similar outlook. "It's going to be a bit of a mystery tour for us, but the same is true for everyone," he said. "I'm going to take the same approach as I have done on all the rallies this year: I'll push hard but nothing crazy and see where that puts us relative to everybody else. So far, our pace has been pretty good. I'm not actually sure which developments have gone on the car since Argentina, but for the moment I think we need to concentrate on reliability so we are sure of making the finish."